The real puzzle is not why voters are so ignorant but why they bother to vote at all. Perhaps it's because they've been swayed by propaganda telling them that "every vote counts" or that it's their civic duty to vote. Or perhaps they enjoy voting as an expressive activity, a way of affirming their identity, their aspirations, their membership in a community, or their visceral hatred of particular politicians.
Even on that level, I'm having difficulty choosing. Bush's spend-and-spend conservatism is at least as bad as Kerry's tax-and-spend liberalism -- probably worse, since Kerry would have a Congress controlled by a different party to restrain him. I'm not convinced Kerry knows how to fight terrorism, but I find Bush's plan to do so by "spread[ing] freedom and liberty around the world" alarmingly overambitious.
I can't bring myself to vote for a guy who could blithely promise to create a "Department of Wellness." Or who believes that affluence can be achieved by decree and that letting people keep their own money is self-evidently worse that forcibly redistributing it.
But at least Kerry is a candid statist. Unlike Bush, he does not pretend to favor smaller government while delivering the opposite. He does not extol the advantages of the market over central planning in the area of health care (even while bragging about expanding the government's role in medicine), then turn around and say the key to better education is more central planning.
There's a tendency to assume that undecided voters are ignorant voters, that if only they were paying attention they would have made up their minds by now. But in my experience, the more you know, the more you realize how hard it is to pick the candidate who would do less damage to the country.
Fortunately, it's not a choice I actually have to make. Maybe I'll vote Libertarian, or maybe I'll stay home. Even if you know what you're talking about, there's no shame in not voting.
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